Her luxury line is inspired by women of color, who she feels deserves to be celebrated. Meet Aprelle Duany, an African-American living in Nairobi, Kenya who has created her luxury line known as APRELLEDUANY. She currently launched her leather goods in Nairobi, Kenya, designed in Africa and produced in Europe.
The back view. Image: Susan Wong & SHK Consulting
“I am very passionate about developing this luxury brand to show the world, the Woman of Color deserves to be celebrated. I began with researching my target consumer, her lifestyle and needs, and the type of products that I wanted to offer,” says Duany. “My research continued with identifying key sourcing and manufacturing partners. The next step was to create a sample collection to build awareness of the brand and communicate its essence to interested parties. The next step for any emerging brand or business is to market and sell the product to the key consumers and make any necessary adjustments along the way to ensure the brand ethos and offering are in perfect harmony with the target audience.”
Her bags have female inspired names which include: Maathai, Maya, Miriam and Hattie celebrating four women of colour: Wangari Maathai, Miriam Makeba, Maya Angelou and Hattie McDaniel.
“The naming of the products is closely tied to the ethos of the brand, which is to celebrate the Woman of Color for her beauty and achievements. Each product is named after a pioneering Woman of Color who because of her trailblazing spirit has opened doors for those who follow,” she explains.
The bags are produced in Europe where she works with a small group of artisans using calfskin and a suede interior. For clients who prefer exotic skins, the bags are then created for them, on order.
Inside the bag, use of African inspirations. Image: Susan Wong & SHK Consulting.
“To create and assemble the bag can take from 72 hours to several days. The entire process, which includes quality control, proper testing, and finishing of each bag is dependent on the type of bag that is being assembled. The process can take from 72 hours to several days,” Duany states. “Each bag comes with a custom metal tag, which is engraved with our logo. We use sophisticated machinery as well as handcrafting techniques are used to make our products.”
The products are in limited quantity for the three collections offered per year. The cost of the products ranges from $500 for the small leather goods and accessories, and increases to $3500 and above for custom made pieces with exotic skins and custom gold hardware.
Technology is a large component of the design and prototyping process with the use of a variety of tools such as 3D printers to transform a concept into reality.
In Caramel. Image” Susan Wong & SHK Consulting
“The creative process is ongoing, it never stops. I am always sketching and drawing and snapping pictures of elements that excite me. I am lucky in that I am able to travel quite often to beautiful places where I get my inspiration for color sourcing, design concepts, as well as texture options,” she adds. “I approach each design from a problem-solving perspective, from my engineering background; I am able to use innovation to create unique products that have a focus on functionality.”
In regards to serving the affluent African luxury consumer, Duany is using a multi-tiered model that includes exclusive only events and retailing through exclusive boutiques and high-end department stores. The location for the flagship store is yet to be identified.
“Africa is a key component of our luxury strategy, as we want to offer luxury on the continent in a sense that the affluent African consumer is our target consumer and not a secondary market as in the case of many luxury brands now entering the market. Our initial focus will include West and South African cities, and we will increase our footprint as the brand grows.”
When it comes to legalities in the luxury sector and emerging markets, there seems to be a lot of work to be done to protect luxury brands.
Maya satchel in Electric Blue colour. Image: Susan Wong & SHK Consulting.
“We protect our designs and intellectual property using patents, copyrights, and trademarking,” Duany commented. “In Kenya, there is a lot of legal information available and a variety of administrations and offices who are now supporting art and design, though the enforcement of such legislation is still in early stages.”
“There is a challenge of whether existing laws adequately cover the concerns of luxury companies. The difficulty in detection and subsequently enforcement of laws and judgments from courts. Perceived or real impartiality of local courts, especially as relates to foreign companies,” explains Jacqueline Musiitwa, Founder of Hoja Law Group.
Musiitwa, a lawyer who advises on intellectual property protection, innovation and the creative industries also adds the importance of having antic-counterfeit strategy.
“All luxury businesses should have an anti-counterfeiting strategy (online or otherwise). It is important to understand the nuances of various markets. Emerging markets are not homogenous. Companies should understand the limitations of laws in various jurisdictions before agreeing to sell and ship products to a location. As the online consumer market grows, companies need to equally understand customer trends and concerns about their data security, logistics, etc.”
Maryanne Maina is A Kenyan luxury consultant in Africa. MBA participant in Luxury Brand. Management in Paris, France. This story originally appeared on her blog on July 28, 2015. To read more of her stories, follow her blog: maryannenjeri.wordpress.com.